AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the state’s child welfare agency to investigate reports of gender-confirmation care for children like abuse, a directive that opponents say is a first from any governor on GOP efforts to restrict transgender rights.
The immediate impact of the order, which Abbott issued on Tuesday, was unclear and a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said there were no open cases on the based on the Governor’s directive.
Abbott’s letter to state agencies came after Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a nonbinding legal opinion this week that characterized certain confirmatory treatments as “child abuse.” This runs counter to the nation’s largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions filed in state houses across the country.
Both Abbott and Paxton are up for re-election this year, and their actions came a week before they were on the ballot for Republican voters in Texas’ first primary in 2022.
“I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of all reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas,” Abbott said in a letter to the Department of Family and Protective Services.
The uncertainty about the impact is largely due to the fact that the Attorney General’s opinions do not have the force of law. In Houston, the county office that represents the state in civil child abuse cases said it would take no action based on the letter, and the largest child protection advocacy group Texas Childhood said it was unclear what judges and prosecutors would do with the notice.
“What is clear is that politicians should not be tearing apart loving families – and sending their children into the foster care system – when parents provide recommended medical care that they believe is in their best interest. child,” said Kate Murphy, the elderly person. policy associate for child protection at Texans Care for Children.
Paxton’s advice relates to treatments that include puberty blockers and hormone therapy. It comes months after Republican lawmakers in Texas — who filed more anti-LGBTQ proposals last year than in any other state house — proposed laws banning such treatment but failed to pass them.
Arkansas became the first state to pass a law banning gender confirmation treatments for minors, and Tennessee approved a similar measure.
Many states have also enacted laws prohibiting transgender students from participating in school sports based on their gender identity.
Cathryn Oakley, the state’s legislative director and senior human rights campaign attorney, said no other governor has taken the same action as Abbott. She called it a “lawless interpretation” and expressed concern for the parents.
“The terror that strikes their hearts is very real,” Oakley said. “I also think of the children who rely on this care and how scared they are.”
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